(Getty Images)

Tony Stewart’s fellow drivers glad to see him back racing

Leave a comment

While he may be one of their toughest rivals on a racetrack, several NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are happy to see Tony Stewart back in a car this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion will make his first start of the season in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400. He missed the season’s first eight races while recovering from a Jan. 31 accident in an ATV.

Kevin Harvick:

“I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony. To see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner’s standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on.

“You add all that enthusiasm and engagement that he’s had with us at the racetrack and now you put him back in the car, and you can see that excitement to another level.

“It’s big to have him back in the car. We’re all excited as a sport and as his teammates to have him back in the car is always a good thing; and have that consistency moving forward with just one driver.

“Mike (Bugarewicz, crew chief) has done a great job and the team has done a great job and the organization has done a great job in supporting him, but to have that consistency is going to be big for everybody.”

Kurt Busch:

“It’s great to have our team owner and our lead driver back in the car. It’s great to see him recover as quickly as he did, to push through the rehab side of it to get back to the car. This is his retirement year. He is supposed to enjoy it. He wants to go out there and do well.

“I think Richmond is a perfect track for the body to come back to a race, because of the lower demands physically on the body because there is not a lot of banking here. There is not a lot of G-Force and you have to get up on the wheel and turn the wheel, but he will be able to settle in.

“He has had good history here at Richmond. He has had multiple wins, and it’s just nice to see him jump back in the car so soon. We just want him back in the car to work the bugs out of it to be as competitive as soon as possible.”

Joey Logano:

“We are glad to have him back. The 14 number has been out there every week, but Tony hasn’t been in it, so it is nice to have Tony back out in his final year. I can imagine he wants to go out on a good note, and it is nice to have him back in the car and be in that position where he loves to be and try to end his career on a high note.”

Brad Keselowski:

“Any time you welcome back a three-time champion, regardless of what his name is, is a big deal for our sport. I am glad to have him back, and I think it is a big deal for our fans as well.”

Denny Hamlin:

“It’s good. This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he’s now going to be going to some of these race tracks for the final time, and I know just in general Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race tracks and been very hands-on with his race team.

“I know it’s all special memories for us to be able to go out there and compete with him. I know me coming into the Cup Series and being a teammate of his in my rookie season was awesome, but our relationship has grown so much further now that we’re not teammates. It’s a great season — would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note.”

Carl Edwards:

“From a competitor’s standpoint, Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun. I’ve really enjoyed racing Tony, and it’s good to see him back in a car. I think he adds a lot and definitely makes it fun out on the racetrack.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Family affair: Harrison Burton celebrates first K&N Pro Series East win with parents

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Harrison Burton has been to NASCAR’s Victory Lane before. But that was when his dad, NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton, raced.

Saturday, Harrison Burton was in Victory Lane after winning his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. Both his mom and dad were there to celebrate his first NASCAR win.

The 16-year-old Burton dominated Saturday’s rain-shortened Zombie Auto 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway, earning praise from current and former NASCAR competitors.

“One of my favorite races I can recall of my dad winning was here at Bristol,’’ Harrison Burton said of his father’s victory in 2008. “Me and my sister were jumping up and down when he won. I was really, really excited to win, and I’m sure he was excited to watch me win.

“It was really cool for me and him both to share a moment like that together. Obviously, my mom, as well, who has traveled the country with me while my dad was racing.’’

So what was the family celebration like this time?

“I didn’t say much,’’ Harrison Burton, a sophomore in high school, said. “I was just kind of laughing and smiling. I gave my mom a big hug and my dad a big hug as well. I think I lifted my mom off the ground. We were just pretty excited.’’

Harrison Burton led 68 of the 70 laps run before rain ended the race early. Ruben Garcia Jr. finished second. Spencer Davis was third, Hunter Baize placed fourth and Chad Finchum was fifth.

“Me and my crew chief were kind of talking like we wanted to run the whole race and win it that way,’’ Harrison Burton said. “We were confident enough to where we felt like our car was good enough that we could win the race. I felt like it would have been kind of cool to cross the line under dry conditions and do it that way. (But) I’ll take it. I was pretty happy when it started raining to be honest. I never wanted it to rain so bad in my life.’’

Harrison Burton leads the series standings with 129 points. He’s followed by Baize (114 points), Todd Gilliland (113), Ronnie Bassett Jr. (111) and Garcia (105).

The race will shown on NBCSN at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday, April 27.

 and on Facebook

Jeremy Clements receives swollen left eye after punch from Ross Chastain

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Jeremy Clements said he was stunned when Ross Chastain “socked me” during a red flag delay during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinty race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Chastain and Clements had contact during the race and then Clements hit Chastain during a caution for rain. The race soon was stopped and drivers exited their cars. Clements came up from behind Chastain.

“I put my hand on his back and turned him around,’’ Clements said. “I had no intention of hitting him, and he turned around and socked me. I had no intention of fighting the guy.’’

Said Chastain: “Somebody grabbed me and turned me around and I saw red eyes and a face that wasn’t going to talk.

“It was a reaction on my part. I’ve never punched anybody in my life. I don’t know what I’d do if I could do it all over again. I can’t let people come up and grab me. It’s happened before in NASCAR and out of NASCAR. I felt like I had to stand my ground.’’

Clements went to the infield care center to ice his left eye.

“It was swollen up pretty good,’’ Clements said. “He did punch me.”

He returned and finished 17th. Chastain finished 31st after he was later involved in an accident.

NASCAR met with both drivers after the race and will review the matter to decide if there are to be any penalties.

Chastain and Clements both said they’ve had run-ins with each other through the years.

“I’ve talked to him before and it doesn’t get us anywhere,’’ Clements said after the race and before meeting with NASCAR. “I don’t know what to do. I try to race him clean all the time. He cuts you no slack and sometimes we’re running for 22nd and 23rd and (he) just door slams you. It’s uncalled for.’’

Chastain said they talked it out in the NASCAR hauler and shook hands.

“I feel bad,’’ Chastain said. “We run against each other. We work together. We buy motors from them. They build our motors, so it’s not good for me to do that. We’re good and on to Richmond.’’

 and on Facebook

Elliott Sadler leads top-three sweep by JR Motorsports in Xfinity points

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a season-best fourth-place finish Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Elliott Sadler increased his lead in the Xfinity Series points standings.

Sadler leads JR Motorsports teammate William Byron by 16 points.

Justin Allgaier, who trails Sadler by 60 points, gives JR Motorsports the top three spots in the standings.

The top five is completed by Ryan Reed (76 points behind Sadler) and Daniel Hemric (80 points behind Sadler).

Click here for the full points standings.

Results and stats for Xfinity Series race at Bristol won by Erik Jones

Leave a comment

Erik Jones led the final 21 laps in order to win the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver outran Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez for his second win of the year and his second in a row.

The top five was filled out by Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric.

Click here for full race results.